On August 28, 2017, Gerard Pique enthused after they were beaten 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup, the first El Clasico this season, “These people (Real Madrid) are taking us for a dance. I have never felt more inferior to them in my 9 years here. I do now.” He was right.
Barcelona had just lost Neymar and were in a state of confusion at board level. However, what has followed has left us all spellbound.
They are undefeated in all competitions. They’ve created a 14-point gap between themselves and the side that humiliated them that night. And they’ve also created a 9-point gap between themselves and 2nd place Atletico Madrid. All thanks to Ernesto Valverde.
He has made them difficult to beat and has molded the team in such a way that they didn’t need to get into second gear in their El Clasico clash. After trouncing Real Madrid by 3 goals to nothing in front of the Madrid faithful, here are a few things we observed in the game:
Madrid and Ronaldo were the architects of their El Clasico downfall
Five shots. That was the number Ronaldo rolled off on Saturday at lunchtime in the El Clasico fixture. Three shots on target, two off target. Here’s the ironic part: Of those three on target, he could (and should) have laid off two to teammates in better positions.
He wasn’t the only one guilty of being wasteful or indecisive in the El Clasico clash. Marcelo, Benzema and Ramos were guilty of being careless with the ball possession and the manner in which they were picked apart for the first two goals left a lot to be desired.
Kovacic watched as Rakitic drove through the heart of the midfield, choosing to stick to Messi like glue, instead, a player who was 5 yards away from the ball.
Casemiro and Kroos? We’re still trying to locate them on our GPS monitor.
Ramos is a ticking time bomb
A red card was never far away from the 30-year old. It is however surprising that it was Carvajal who got it. The calmest of Madrid’s defenders had taken the risk to clean up the mess his captain had clearly helped in creating.
He was nowhere to be found for the second goal as Carvajal did a Suarez and was in no man’s land for the first. His only contributions? A customary yellow bothering on a red and blaming the referee.
Valverde has transformed Barca wholly
Many Barca fans have moaned this season at some point or the other about the way they play. “It’s too passive.” “We are not playing as we ought too.” “But we can’t blame him (Valverde), he is working with what he has.”
That is exactly how Valverde works. At Bilbao, he came into a shitstorm and turned them into Europa League regulars. Winning their first title in almost 30years, his meticulous handling of this Barcelona as well as making Messi sit on the bench is testament to his work.
His Clasico win only certified that the structure being put in place isn’t temporary but permanent. He has coaxed the best out of Paulinho, Aleix Vidal while turning Jordi Alba into an assist king. Simply put, he has succeeded where Enrique failed, building a great chemistry in the dressing room.
Imagine what would happen when Barcelona players sign top players to complement their current crop.
Have we mentioned that this season’s La Liga title race is over?
Do you think otherwise? Do you think any other team can catch Barcelona this season? How can Real Madrid recover from this defeat? Is it time to let Zidane go? Leave us a comment and let us know what your thoughts.